Nina: A Story of Nina Simone |

Gail continues with our January theme and her choice is:

Nina: a story of Nina Simone by Traci N. Todd and illustrated by Christian Robinson (Penguin Random House 2021).

“When I die, I’m going to know that I left something for my people to build on. That is my reward”. This is a quote from Nina Simone in 1969 which appears before the title page in the picturebook biography of Nina. Nina links well to the subjects of music and social history, in particular the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Nina is the story of Eunice who grew up to become the famous singer Nina Simone. It does not hide the fact that Nina encountered racism from a very early age and shows how she used her voice, words and music to speak out against racism, hate and prejudice.

Christian Robinson’s illustrations convey mood, themes and characters and also depict historical events during the Civil Rights Movement within Nina’s piano which enhance the narrative by providing information that is not in the story and which impacted on Nina’s music.

Nina is quite text-heavy so is best suited for upper primary/lower secondary children who may be learning in a bilingual/content-based setting. As a point of entry, children could watch the picturebook trailer and listen to a couple of Nina’s best-known songs or read along and listen to Traci N. Todd talking with TeachingBooks about creating Nina. It is also possible for children to listen and translate the text into their own language. And there is a short audiobook excerpt from Nina they can listen to and a read-aloud on YouTube.

The last line of the story is particularly powerful: “And when she sang of Black children—you lovely, precious dreams—her voice sounded like hope”.

Nina is timely in today’s climate and will support children to respond appropriately and to take action. We would love to hear how you use Nina with your classes.

Traci N. Todd talking about creating Nina.

Audio book excerpt

Read-aloud

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